Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Wednesday, August 12, 2015, Shraban 28, 1422 BS, Shawal 26, 1436 Hijr

Phantom Of Death Haunts Bloggers-Part 4
Scared bloggers fleeing country
Pulack Ghatack
Published :Wednesday, 12 August, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 164

Bloggers and online activists are embracing the painful life of refugees leaving their homeland behind, as the spectre of death lurks in the shadow even in their bedrooms. Threats of arrest or prosecution have only added to their woes.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP) AKM Shahidul Hoque on Sunday said it categorically that his forces would arrest the bloggers found involved in criticising religions.
The police chief also requested everyone to file complaint if anybody is found writing anything against religious beliefs.
"Police must arrest the accused, if the allegation is proved against him or her," he said and added that there is a law stipulating 14 years jail term for making or writing comments against religions.
The government in an inter-ministerial meeting on the law and order situation at the Home Ministry on Sunday decided to arrest the bloggers and prosecute them under the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) (Amendment) Act, 2013, which has the provision of a maximum 14-year and a minimum of 7 years jail terms. The accused under the law are generally denied bail.
In this situation, the bloggers, accused of criticising religious beliefs, will either have to go to jail or will have to die in the hands of the assailants or will have to leave the country, several bloggers told the Daily Observer on Monday.
But most of the bloggers said that they do not want to leave their beloved country and lead the life of refugees abroad. 
We are writing and working to build a secular nation according to the spirit of the Liberation War,  they said. But their activism to build a secular and pluralistic society has boomeranged and most of them have gone into hiding or have stopped writing.
Gias Uddin is a writer and freethinker, who used to criticize popular beliefs and faiths. Nowadays, he does not write. He went into hiding and kept his Facebook ID deactivated for months to evade death threats.
But none can survive for a long time by hiding from his or her surroundings. Involved in teaching profession, Gias had to rejoin his office and appear in public. But who can say when he will be killed, as assassination of bloggers has become almost regular in the country? The killers are roaming scot-free when the writers are on the run.
"I am used to write in different blogs and social sites since 2007. Once upon a time, I became the chief moderator of a popular blog. Emergence of blogs made me a writer. Now this has emerged as death trap for me. I am in danger. I do not know where the fanatics and militants are hiding and when they will swoop on  me," Gias said.
He filed a general diary (GD) with the police on August 8 after having received death threat. But he is still not safe. Police have advised him not to write anything on the Facebook or blogs. They have forbidden me not to write anything especially about religions. "We will have to arrest you, if we get any allegation of writing anything criticising Islam," police told him.
"I cannot think of leaving the country. But I am not secure here," Gias told this correspondent. The pseudonym Gias has been used in this report hiding his real name, which is in the hit-list of 84 bloggers published by the militants, due to his security concern.
Blogger and activist Ekush Tapadar said, "I have my ailing mother aged 65. There is none to look after her accept me. I cannot leave the country leaving her behind. If the militants kill me, I will have to embrace death."
Shahiduzzaman Paplu is the President of the Sylhet branch of Bangladesh Chattra Union, the largest left-leaning student organisation in the country. He has a bright political career and cannot think of leaving the country under any circumstances.
But his scared family members are insisting him to shun politics and go into hiding after the death of Ananta Bijoy Das.
Shahiduzzaman, who is used to write as Paplu Bangali, was a close associate of slain blogger Ananta Bijoy Das. He is leading the movement for bringing the killers of Ananta into justice and now is at grave danger. Some fundamentalist forces have branded him as an atheist and issued death threats, it is learnt.
Ahmedur Rashid Tutul is the proprietor of the famous publishing house Shudhdhashar, which had published most of the books of slain blogger Avijit Roy. Now he is in danger as the fundamentalist forces have identified him as a promoter of atheist ideology. 
Tutul, who was active in the Sachalyatan Blog, is scared of losing his life but he vowed to stay in the country as he is well established here. "I love this country, I will work for it and I will die here," he said.
But there are many others, who have no alternative but to leave the country for the sake of dear life. At least 14 bloggers have left the country recently when many others are seeking shelter here and there to save their lives.
The bloggers who left the country include Asif Mohiuddin, Anayana Azad, Rasel Parvez, Kamelia, Subrata Suvo, Suvojit Bhawmik, Ghona Da, Raihan Abir, Sonyasi Ratan, Biplob Kanti Dey, Munir Hussain and cartoonist Arif. Most of them are in the hit-list of the extremists as reported by different media.
There are some other bloggers who have already left the country. But they requested this correspondent not to disclose their names for the sake of security of their family members. Earlier Daud Haider and Taslima Nasrin had to leave the country for their writings. 

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone :9586651-58. Fax: 9586659-60, Advertisemnet: 9513663, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected].